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Green Zone League Articles

GZL14 | NFC East | New beasts of the East?
By Anthony Fernandez
Special to gzl-football.com

GZL DIVISION PREVIEW
NFC East
Saturday, January 12th, 2014
Anthony Fernandez, GreenZone Media Committee






Dallas Cowboys

Key Additions:
LT Anthony Collins (Trade)
QB Ricky Stanzi (Trade)
CB Coty Sensabaugh (Draft)
MLB Nico Johnson (Draft)
WR Tavon Austin (Draft)

Key Losses:
QB Kellen Moore (Trade)
OLB Leon Williams (Cut)

Strengths:
Iíd be chased out of my office with a pitchfork if I discussed the Cowboys strengths and didnít discuss their record breaking passing attack. Romo and Miles are coming back, as well as Dez Bryant, and on top of that Tavon Austin becomes an explosive slot WR for Americaís team. The OL has plenty of serviceable veterans to get through a season, and maybe even get HB Felix Jones back to 1000+ yard status. Ironically enough, the absolute strength of this team may be their defense. Since GZL opened itís doors, the Cowboys have always had exceptional corners, and Jenkins/AOA may be their best tandem yet. Gunner Recall and Coty Sensabaugh were both tremendous picks the last two years, and give the Cowboys the flexibility needed to matchup with NFC burners like Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, and Ryan Broyles. The front 7 also looks quite fierce as well.

Weaknesses:
The Cowboys donít have many weaknesses at all. Usually when a team looks solid everywhere, you can find a utility position to squeeze a few sentences out Ė but the Cowboys are even solid there. They added QB Ricky Stanzi to backup Romo and eventually become the face of Big D, so they are protected from catastrophe there. TE Eifert and FB Clay are solid players, likely Top 10 at their positions. P McBriar and K Buehler are both phenomenal special teamers, and they have enough players near 99/99/99 that they should have multiple kick return options. Their only real hole might be SS Morgan Burnett, and heís more than serviceable for another season.

MVP:
QB Tony Romo


Prediction:
(11-5) The Cowboys were great last year, and I think the thing that stung KVW the most was that he knew he may never get an easier path to a GZL Super Bowl than v. Detroit, v. Atlanta, and v. an injury depleted San Diego team. Every team in their division looks improved this year, and I think holding their ground at (11-5) on a 1st place schedule that will see them play Tampa, St. Louis, Detroit, and the AFC East will be a great accomplishment.



New York Giants

Key Additions:
WR Jeremy Maclin (Trade)
QB Drew Brees (FA)
RE Jerry Hughes (Trade)
LE Nick Perry (Trade)
TE Cornelius Ingram (Trade)
QB Mark Steele (Trade)
OLB Kenny Tate (Draft)

Key Losses:
WR DeSean Jackson (Trade)
RE Justin Tuck (Trade)
QB Matt Cassel (Cut)
HB Ahmad Bradshaw (Cut)
QB Matt Leinart (Trade)

Strengths:
The Giants did a lot of good things this offseason, and headed into 2014 you have to be very impressed with their offense on paper. HB Clay looked like a beast down the stretch last year, Kaepernick looks like a legit Franchise QB, and they have future Hall of Famer Drew Brees to hold down the position for a year. Maclin, Nicks and Royal are one of the best WR crews on paper, and their offensive line has been completely rebuilt the last two years, arguably one of the best in the league. Their front 7 is going to get a ton of sacks this year, as Perry, Allen, Hughes, Misi, McCarthy, Wimbley, and Hightower all have Pro Bowl potential. On the backside, Kenny Phillips is one of the best safeties in football, and heís surely looking to show many teams what they missed when he basically spent 12 months on a trade block prior to signing a new 4-year pact.

Weaknesses:
Like the Cowboys, the Giants donít have many holes. I do fear their experience and depth at corner, especially playing in that division. Brandon Hogan was great last year in his 1st full year as a starter, but he still has low AWR and isnít the biggest guy in town. The team lacks a 1st round pick this upcoming year, so they will be limited when it comes to beefing up this position if Hogan slumps of they suffer an injury. That said, their offense is a prime candidate to lead the league in points scored, so they certainly have the potential to mask this well.

MVP:
QB Drew Brees

Prediction:
(11-5) The Giants battled back last season and got every break they needed to make the playoffs WK17 Ė except they choked in Washington. This surely didnít sit well with GM James Paronne, and I think theyíll bring a certain fire to the NFC East in 2014. The Cowboys-Giants rivalry is quickly becoming one of the best in the league, and donít be surprised if the division is decided on tiebreakers. So far, the Giants lead the All-Time series (5-4), including the Giants bouncing the ĎBoys in Big D during the 2013 playoffs. That said, Iíd give the slight edge to the Cowboys on paper.


Washington Redskins

Key Additions:
WR Andre Johnson (Trade)
MLB Barrett Ruud (Trade)
CB DeAngelo Hall (Trade)
CB Kareem Jackson (Trade)
WR Josh Pietarila (Draft)
WR Cordarrelle Patterson (Draft)

Key Losses:
OLB Brian Orakpo (Trade)
WR Anquan Boldin (Cut)
CB Glover Quin (Amnesty)
WR Taylor Price (Cut)

Strengths:
The Redskins invested in Chad Henne last year, and I think it was the right decision. Then they surrounded him with some real weapons at WR, and despite a lack of a running game, he should produce well behind that solid OL. The CBs in DC will be much better in 2014, and theyíll need them to slow down the Cowboys and Giants. The team will be hard-pressed to match the production they got from the DL last year, but Coples and Curry still present themselves as a strength for a team that will need to create pressure up front. The team is missing Orakpo, which should hurt, but their linebackers are certainly above average, even if they lack an edge rusher off the left side.

Weaknesses:
The team might be wise to use Coples or Curry at LOLB to maximize their pressure scheme, but ultimately this front 7 appears to be a year away. The two biggest holes on the team, however, have to be at HB and backup QB. Iím not a fan of any HB on the roster, and Henne has consistently been a QB whoís his best when his HB (usually Ronnie Brown) is doing the heavy lifting and Henne can gash teams with the play action. As a drop-back-go-deep guy in New York, Henne took a lot of hits and frequented the training room. There are some solid HBs in free agency that could patch this up for a season though, and Ison is a good enough GM to get this team competing.

MVP:
QB Chad Henne

Prediction:
(9-7) I like the Redskins a lot, but their depth is scary. I have a hard time seeing this team outgun the Giants or Cowboys, but they should be in the thick of it and compete for a playoff spot. That said, itís dangerous territory being 1 injury away from a FA starting at QB.



Philadelphia Eagles

Key Additions:
CB Vonae Davis (Trade)
OLB Cameron Wake (Trade)
LT Eric Winston (FA)
SS Tyvon Branch (Trade)
WR Leonard Hankerson (Trade)
MLB A.J. Hawk (Trade)
RG Eric Wood (Trade)
QB Kellen Moore (Trade)

Key Losses:
DT Mike Patterson (Cut)
RT Jason Peters (Cut)
OLB Akeem Jordan (Trade)
WR Lee Evans (Cut)
QB Kevin Kolb (Trade)

Strengths:
The Eagles have a franchise QB who has won a Super Bowl, but we didnít get to see much of him last year. The Eagles certainly have the talent on the OL to keep his jersey clean, but if the Eagles are going to be successful in 2014 they will need to find a way to get HB Ray Rice back to his 1400+ yard form of 2010 and 2011, not the shifty change of pace back who barely cracked 500 the last two seasons. On defense, the Eagles have a pretty good pair of corners, explosive linebackers, and a very adequate defensive line.

Weaknesses:
The Eagles got a capable backup QB in case Rodgers flops again, so their success and failure should not be so closely tied to that position. Their WR group has the potential to be a strength, but it remains to be seen if these guys will reach their potential in Philly. Iím not a huge fan of their Safeties, and I personally think Ė while talented Ė their defense is void of depth.

MVP:
QB Aaron Rodgers

Prediction:
(8-8) If the team stays healthy, they could easily swing another win or two and challenge for the playoffs. In the tough NFC East, however, I fear this team is a .500 squad until they prove us different. Eggleston went (10-6) and made the playoffs in 2010, but has gone (17-31) since. This is a big year for him. (8-8) would actually be progress, but with ARod in a contract year, and veteran QBs pulling 1sts, this is a situation to watch at the trade deadline if they donít start strong.


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